(WHTM) — A lawsuit to take a widely-used abortion medication off the market is playing out in Texas, but the federal case could have significant impacts even in states where abortion remains legal.
Planned Parenthood Keystone CEO Melissa Reed said a ban on the pill — mifepristone — would not end medication abortions in Pennsylvania, but the procedure would change and it could be harder for some women to access.
“This case is a politically motivated attack that is certainly not based in science,” Reed said. “This is really a desperate and merit meritless claim.”
The FDA approved mifepristone more than 20 years ago. It is typically used as the first pill of two in a medication abortion. The lawsuit argues the FDA acted too quickly when they initially approved the pill in 2000, but Reed said the decades since have proved the pill is safe and effective.
“It’s been used safely by 5 million individuals to date,” she said.
A February report from the abortion rights group the Guttmacher Institute found medication abortions make up more than half of all abortions in the U.S.
Widener University Commonwealth Law School bioethics professor Anna Levin said reversing this long-standing FDA approval would be a bold step.
“It’s gonna just completely upend the status quo,” she said. “Because the FDA, you know, it goes through rigorous studies before medication is approved for use.”
Levin also said mifepristone is not just used for abortions.
“Mifepristone is also used to control high blood sugar,” she said. “It’s also used to treat women who have fibroids and endometriosis.”
Levin explained the medication is also used if women having a miscarriage cannot completely expel a pregnancy.
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“It can be really dangerous if she’s not able to access that medication in time,” Levin said.
A ban on mifepristone would not end medication abortions. Reed said the second pill in the two-pill regimen — misoprostol — can be used alone — but there can be downsides.
“It does require the individual to take more doses. There is more cramping sometimes and nausea associated with that regimen,” she said.
However, both Levin and Reed said the issue comes down to choice.
“This really kind of gets in the way of that doctor-patient relationship and of a woman’s autonomy,” Levin said.
She said autonomy is one of the principles of bioethics.
Reed added, “People should be able to choose which abortion method is best for them.”
The federal judge overseeing the Texas lawsuit said he plans to rule “as soon as possible.” Reed said Planned Parenthood is prepared to keep providing services, whatever the outcome.